The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

32nd NATO Member Official in March

Sweden Becomes a NATO Ally Ending Long-Standing History of Neutrality
Asha Rountree

On March 7, 2024, Sweden became a full member of NATO after an application process that spanned 20 months. This signifies an end to Sweden’s neutrality that has lasted centuries.

NATO, since its formation in 1949, has aimed to provide security and freedom for its members. It currently has 32 member countries, with Sweden being the most recent. In May 2022, only months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland both applied to be NATO members due to fears that the Ukraine conflict may expand in their general northern direction. Finland was made NATO’s 31st member in April 2023, making Finland and Sweden the first states to be made NATO members since North Macedonia joined 13 years ago. Despite applying in 2022, Sweden only recently became a member because of the membership process that requires that each country must agree to let said new country in. Türkiye and Hungary both had tribulations accepting Sweden into the organization due to Sweden’s complicated history with Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and Türkiye’s disapproval of Sweden’s lack of action against Kurdish militant groups. 

One reason Sweden decided to join NATO is because of the Article Five Collective Defense Clause, which provides support for any NATO Ally who becomes a victim of an armed attack. Every NATO member of the Alliance must consider this attack an attack against all members and should act as necessary to assist the country, according to NATO. Micheal Mosser, an international relations professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) mentioned the types of issues that could arise in the event of an enactment of the clause.

“If [the Ukraine conflict] expands to somewhere like Poland, which is an actual NATO member, … you end up with a NATO-Russia conflict,” Mosser said. “It’s a big question as to what Hungary will do. They are bound by treaty to defend the alliance, but we’ve never been, and NATO has never been tested that way. NATO and the Russians have never gone into combat against each other … But it’s [going to] be a big real-world test of alliance commitments if forces are required to go to combat against Russian troops.”

While the idea of Sweden and Finland as possible NATO members is not new, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 caused many NATO members to believe it was a necessary step, according to Björn Lundberg, a professor of Swedish history at Lund University in Sweden. There have been opportunities in the past where political parties in Sweden wanted to make the advance, but there has never been a majority on the matter, according to Lundberg.

“When Finland decided to apply for membership, one of the major arguments against NATO membership fell,” Lundberg said.

When Sweden and Finland applied to become NATO members, the end of their neutrality or non-alignment proved that Sweden was committed to building new relationships with other countries in similar situations, according to Helene Honeybone. Honeybone is an honorary consul of Sweden.

“Sweden’s membership in NATO is also important because it shows who our allies are in the world … together we are stronger and we realize that we want to invest in those relationships,” Honeybone said. “We have a new world right now that’s much more global, but we also have a lot of threats in the world. And so it becomes more important to have friends out there and close relationships with other countries.”

According to Lundberg, when looking at why Sweden joined NATO, it is first important to look at how Russia has dealt with NATO states in the past. While Sweden’s membership can potentially signal to Finland and neighboring Baltic States that they are committed to NATO and security, it also shows Russia that these countries now stand together against future issues.

“It’s somewhat ironic that when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Vladimir Putin claimed it had to do with NATO expansion eastward,” Lundberg said. “Instead, it’s actually Russia’s aggression that has triggered countries like Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership.”

Politicians have been re-examining their outlook on NATO for the past two years, and with Sweden joining NATO, attention will turn to the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election and what will come of the U.S.’s involvement in NATO after the election.

“Swedish culture and politics are heavily influenced by the United States. This year’s presidential election will get very detailed coverage in Swedish media,” Lundberg said. “One major question of concern will definitely be NATO since Donald Trump and Joe Biden have voiced very different opinions about the organization and its future.”

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